It's a number of years since I first read Diane Setterfield's debut The Thirteenth Tale and I enjoyed it so much I have recommended it to many others since, friends, family and customers alike I even listed it in my top five reads of all time which believe me was not an easy list to compile.
So of course I jumped at the chance to read an early review copy of her next book Bellman & Black which will be published by Orion this October in time for Halloween. I dived straight in to find a glorious slice of Victoriana layered with gothic suspense and mystery. The story opens with the last dying moments of William Bellman as his life flashes before him. He remembers being a ten year old playing in the cemetery with his friends and firing a stone at a rook with his catapult. He knocks the bird to the ground and instantly feels that he has crossed a line. Death has entered William's young life and it follows him through the years. The image of the rook, of the cemetery of the mourning clothes and all the trappings of the Victorian cult of mourning recur throughout the story and lead William to open an emporium of mourning, the first department store dedicated to funerals; black hats and gloves, coffins, black edged stationary can all be purchased at Bellman & Black. This novel is a glorious return for a wonderful and talented writer.